A couple of decades ago, marketing a business involved printing a business card and brochure, securing a spot in the local Yellow Pages phone book and perhaps a local radio or television ad. But the world of marketing has changed, much of it moving to the digital world of the internet.
Digital marketing has helped countless businesses chart great success. However, the realm of digital marketing is filled with terms like search engine optimization, pay-per-click, algorithms and a thousand other concepts unfamiliar to most people.
Digital marketing can also be a massive undertaking, especially when online marketing conventions seemingly change with the whims of the next social media fad online. Maria Ivana Ramirez knows the struggle. The Florida native navigated growing up overseas in Venezuela and Germany before launching an Amazon store in 2018. She parlayed her multicultural background and experience as an executive for a multimillion-dollar Amazon business into establishing Clearwater digital-marketing firm Creative Growth Services in 2020.
Building a strong marketing foundation
“My mission is to take the weight off the business owner because they don’t have the time to deal with complicated work like the project management involved in digital marketing,” says Ramirez, who serves as the CEO of Creative Growth Services. “That’s why people get burnt out. This also comes from my German background – being very organized and strategic. In Germany, it’s very rude to waste someone’s time. Part of the polite factor is to be organized.”
Organized she is. She identifies nine different types of digital marketing, all of which her company offers as part of its Digital Foundation – a multifaceted marketing program she started that laid the groundwork for the company she now runs.
“Our mission is to streamline and organize digital marketing for our clients, and to create for them a well-built foundation,” Ramirez says. “When you have a strong foundation, it makes it so much easier to have longevity in any of your digital marketing endeavors and efforts.”
Offering a complete package
Ramirez remarks that for a business to be successful, its marketing strategy must be uniform.
“We offer all the core digital marketing services as one complete package, and most marketing companies don’t do that, as it is difficult to do and stay uniform,” she says.
Among these services are search engine optimization, email campaigns, strategic marketing research, branding and social media marketing. The suite of marketing services can be tailored to the unique needs of each business. For example, she says, “We offer a small-business marketing campaign that focuses on social media and is more price friendly for small businesses.”
Building a foundation may be one thing, but Ramirez believes it’s about more than just that. Fostering relationships is another key component of business success, something she learned from her years in the hospitality industry and gleaned from her formative years abroad.
“Germany is one big melting pot of people and cultures, which gave me the ability to connect with people easier through marketing. I speak four languages – English, Spanish, German, and Italian. I feel like that gave me my power in marketing because it’s all about connecting with people and thinking outside the box.”
Making things work
She stressed passion and experience when handpicking her company’s team, a diverse panel of professionals specializing in various niches of digital marketing who each boast at least 10 to 15 years of experience in their respective fields. Creative Growth Services has a physical location in Clearwater for certain in-person business functions but is otherwise a hybrid company with professionals working on a mostly remote basis.
The company has grown at a rapid clip, a meteoric rise that has been influenced largely by word of mouth and the belief some of Ramirez’s colleagues have held in her.
“Once I became an exec for this multimillion-dollar Amazon business, I learned all the insights, and it was comprehensive. I did inventory, pay-per-click, marketing and so many other things. The gentleman who owned the company began promoting me a bit. I got over 45 to 50 clients just by word of mouth.”
Making a name in Clearwater and beyond
Creative Growth Services launched in February 2020, just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the United States.
“We were sort of a ‘COVID baby,’ and because we are so organized and have a great tech team, it helped us to survive,” Ramirez says.
Soon, Creative Growth Services was earning government contracts and the company now serves a variety of entities in the public and private sectors. But finding the path from tech startup to marketing maestro meant looking to local resources for help.
“Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater have so many resources for new businesses, but because there are so many it can be hard to know which ones to use or will best help," Ramirez says.
That’s why she turned to Clearwater Business SPARK, an initiative run by chamber of commerce group AMPLIFY Clearwater that serves as a resource for local businesses and nonprofits looking for grants, financing, training, networking, marketing and educational opportunities.
“Clearwater SPARK really helps you with some of the essential things you need to give you direction and orient you,” Ramirez says. “Personally, Clearwater SPARK referred me to Prospera, and then from there I kept getting more and more referrals to both clients and also resources for my business to continue to succeed. I also delivered a presentation for AMPLIFY, and I plan to deliver more.”
Prospera is a nonprofit organization and member of the SPARK network that offers free bilingual assistance to Hispanic entrepreneurs and businesses.
Looking ahead, Ramirez sees a bright future for Creative Growth Services.
“Currently we are focusing on tech – a high emphasis,” she says. “We are working on getting our software launched and planning on how to present it to local small businesses. We want to continue to be well known and want to make a name for organizing the digital industry – it gets you results faster, saves time and money, and helps you focus on operating the business while avoiding burnout.”
For more information, go to Creative Growth Services and Clearwater Business SPARK.
AMPLIFY Clearwater and 83 Degrees Media have an underwriting partnership to profile local businesses that have grown and prospered with the help of the Clearwater Business SPARK network.